Friday, July 11, 2014

Alternate Rules: Speeding Up Combat

One of the common complaints about Pathfinder and DnD and such is how long combat takes (more so from 4e, but what do you expect when you give a 3rd level boss monster 300 hit points and give every player 20+ hit points at 1st level?). A combat may take less than 30 seconds in the game world (like fighting the Hound) and take up an hour or more in the real world (like fighting the Hound, and everything else). Lots of people have suggestions for this. Productive ones tend to be along the lines of pre-rolling dice or no electronic devices at the table (which is impractical in this age of Future Tech Cross Country Gaming). My 4th Edition group has a rule that says if you are immediately prepared when your turn comes up, you automatically get a +2 to your attack roll. It's pretty handy. There is a flaw with pre-rolling dice and being prepared and such. Sometimes you end up paying so much attention to what you are going to do that you miss what everyone else is doing and the situation you thought you were rolling against has drastically changed. I've had that happen several times in my 4e games. I've got this combo chain of powers set up and I'm working on rolling everything to be prepared and only half listening and by the time I look back up I realize it's time to go back to the drawing board and now it is my turn and I'm unprepared. Slow combats are mostly my fault in my Pathfinder campaign. The guys are generally very good about knowing what they are going to do and adapting to what's going on, and then we get to my turn and I have to figure out what eight guys are doing because I was too busy paying attention to everyone else and their bullshit. 

I had a thought recently about speeding up combat. I have mixed feeling about it, but I'll throw it out there anyway. 

Rolling damage can be a somewhat time consuming task. With Vital Strike Eran can do 6d6 damage plus modifiers each round, or Rapid Strike against separate enemies for four 2d6 plus modifier attacks. Any of which can be a critical for 12d6 with Vital Strike and four possibly 8d6 hits with Rapid Shot. Karl can leverage a 10d6 lightning bolt or fireball or multiple 4d6 scorching rays, and who the fuck knows what Donovan can do with his energy whatsitwhosits, sonic does like 5d4-5 and cold does like 5d6+5 and a ice cream headache, whatever. Then I have to roll damage and we're at the point where I can reasonably pit them against enemies with multiple attacks and wide area spells. With dice rollers and primarily being online, it isn't quite as time consuming than if we gamed in person. You don't generally have to track down the pesky d8 from wherever the cat chased it off to. But, you know, if we're thinking rolling dice takes 1-5 second per attack and we have 4 players, their 4 cohorts and my 6 - 10 dudes, that's a chunk of change. Even at like two seconds each and seven enemies we're looking at least half a minute spent rolling things per round of combat. Multiply that by 3 rounds of combat for an average combat and then by roughly 4 combats per scenario and we're at 6 minutes per scenario. Which doesn't seem like a lot until you factor in stuff like opportunity attacks, saving throws, additional effects, Karrak being able to fire off four shots a round, Eran being able to do the same, and other stupid crap. 

Rolling dice, regardless of method, takes some time. 

I'm not suggesting you not roll dice anymore, but what if you didn't roll for damage? What if you just assumed the average with damage? It cuts down time and speeds things up. Even if you aren't prepared for your turn to come around you have that going for you. Maybe it's not worth it, probably not, but combat takes time and getting it to proceed relatively quickly and smoothly isn't going to be caused by one single miracle house rule, it's going to be done by a combination of factors. 

Now how would this work? Simple, all dice are even in Pathfinder and DnD, so you just halve it. A d4 does 2 damage, d6 does 3, and so on. Same way I do hit points after first level. So your greatsword does 6 damage, as does your greataxe. What about d3s? Fuck d3s. They do 1 damage. If I were to use this system, I would also say that when your base attack bonus hits +5, you do 1/2 die + 1 per die of damage, so short swords would do 4 damage plus modifiers and greatswords would do 8 and greataxes would do 7. I would say the same for spells and caster level. This plus one would increase at every 5th base attack bonus increment (Fighters would have +5 at 20th level) or caster level increment (Wizards would get +5 while Paladins would get +3 at 20th level). So a 5th level Wizard casting fireball would do 20 damage with it (5d6 damage = 15, +1 per die = 20). Since critical hits in Pathfinder just multiply the amount of damage dice and their modifiers, it slides into this nicely. So Eran's critical hits for 8d6 + 4d6 from Vital Strike becomes 60 damage plus damage modifiers (12d6 = 36 +2 per die for BAB of +10 = 60). 

There are some flaws with this system. First and foremost is that it isn't exciting. There isn't a chance of rolling max damage and cackling madly as you deal large amounts of damage to whatever faceless fuckhead the GM has placed in front of you. There also isn't that chance of dealing minimum damage, but that's never exactly a huge problem with the heavy modifiers from feats like Deadly Aim/Power Attack or enhancement bonuses to weapons and such. It also grants the players the ability to actively or subconsciously start mathing things out and figuring out just how much an enemy has in terms of bonuses. It also lets you decide whether you need a heal from Karl or Santos or a lightning bolt and a bomb, because now the damage results are static and you as a player already know how much you have for hit points and whether you can survive another hit from an enemy. 

Like I said, it only shaves a few seconds off of combats, and it does have some flaws, but it is a thought I had. I mean realistically you could go with the average result for everything in Pathfinder and just end up comparing sets of numbers, no rolling needed whatsoever. But the rolls of the dice are supposed to represent luck and chance and randomness. Which is weird because most editions add in some mechanic or subsystem related to luck and chance on top of dice rolls (usually by allowing you rerolls). Weren't there lucky feats or something in one of the Complete Let's Re-Skin Everything!!1! books? I think so. 

No comments:

Post a Comment